E-texts of James Wright's Poems

@
@
A Note Left in Jimmy Leonard's Shack
@
As I Step over a Puddle at the End of Winter, I Think of an Ancient Chinese Governor
@
Fear Is What Quickens Me
@
In Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia, Has Been Condemned
@
In Memory of the Horse David, Who Ate One of My Poems
@
To a Blossoming Pear Tree
@
@
The Journey
@
Having Lost My Sons, I Confront the Wreckage of the Moon: Christmas, 1960
@
@

@

A Note Left in Jimmy Leonard's Shack

@
@
Near the dry river's water-mark we found

Your brother Minnegan,

Flopped like a fish against the muddy ground.

Beany, the kid whose yellow hair turns green,

Told me to find you, even if the rain,

And tell you he was drowned.

@
@
@
I hid behind the chassis on the bank,

The wreck of someone's Ford:

I was afraid to come and wake you drunk:

You told me once the waking up was hard,

The daylight beating at you like a board.

Blood in my stomach sank.

@
@
@
Beside, you told him never to go out

Along the river-side

Drinking and singing, clattering about.

You might have thrown a rock at me and cried

I was to blame, I let him fall in the road

And pitch down on his side.

@
@
@
Well, I'll get hell enough when I get home

For coming up this far,

Leaving the note, and running as I came.

I'll go and tell my father where you are.

You'd better go find Minnegan before

Policemen hear and come.

@
@
@
Beany went home, and I got sick and ran,

You old son of a bitch.

You better hurry down to Minnegan;

He's drunk or dying now, I don't know which,

Rolled in the roots and garbage like a fish,

The poor old man.

@
@

As I Step over a Puddle at the End

of Winter, I Think of an

Ancient Chinese Governor

And how can I, born in evil days

And fresh from failure, ask a kindness of Fate?

-- Written A.D. 819

@
@
Po Chu-i, balding old politician,

What's the use?

I think of you,

Uneasily entering the gorges of the Yang-Tze,

When you were being towed up the rapids

Toward some political job or other

In the city of Chungshou.

You made it, I guess,

By dark.

@
@
@
But it is 1960, it is almost spring again,

And the tall rocks of Minneapolis

Build me my own black twilight

Of bamboo ropes and waters.

Where is Yuan Chen, the friend you loved?

Where is the sea, that once solved the whole loneliness

Of the Midwest?Where is Minneapolis? I can see nothing

But the great terrible oak tree darkening with winter.

Did you find the city of isolated men beyond mountains?

Or have you been holding the end of a frayed rope

For a thousand years?

@

@

Fear Is What Quickens Me

@
@
1
Many animals that our fathers killed in America

Had quick eyes.

They stared about wildly,

When the moon went dark.

The new moon falls into the freight yards

Of cities in the south,

But the loss of the moon to the dark hands of Chicago

Does not matter to the deer

In this northern field.

@
@
@
2
What is that tall woman doing

There, in the trees?

I can hear rabbits and mourning dovees whispering together

In the dark grass, there

Under the trees.

@
@
@
3
I look about wildly.
@

@

In Response to a Rumor That the

Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling,

West Virginia, Has Been Condemned

@
@
I will grieve alone,

As I strolled alone, years ago, down along

The Ohio shore.

I hid in the hobo jungle weeds

Upstream from the sewer main,

Pondering, gazing.

@
@
@
I saw, down river,

At Twenty-third and Water Streets

By the vinegar works,

The doors open in early evening.

Swinging their purses, the women

Poured down the long street to the river

And into the river.

@
@
@
I do not know how it was

They could drown every evening.

What time near dawn did they climb up the other shore,

Drying their wings?

@
@
@
For the river at Wheeling, West Virginia,

Has only two shores:

The one in hell, the other

In Bridgeport, Ohio.

@
@
@
And nobody would commit suicide, only

To find beyond death

Bridgeport, Ohio.

@

@

In Memory of the Horse David,

Who Ate One of My Poems

@
@

James Wright on the Horse David, who at the poem of Wright @ @ The photo is taken from James Wright: A Profile, edited by Frank Graziano and Peter Stitt
@

@

To a Blossoming Pear Tree

@
@
Beautiful natural blossoms,

Pure delicate body,

You stand without trembling.

Little mist of falllen starlight,

Perfect, beyond my reach,

How I envy you,

For if you could only listen,

I would tell you something,

Something human.

@
@
@
An old man

Appeared to me once

In the unendurable snow.

He had a singe of white

Beard on his face.

He paused on a street in Minneapolis

And stroked my face.

@
@
@
Give it to me, he begged.

I'll pay you anything.

@
@
@
I flinched. Both terrified,

We slunk away,

Each in his own way dodging

The cruel darts of the cold.

@
@
@
Beautiful natural blossoms,

How could you possibly

Worry or bother or care

About the ashamed, hopeless

Old man? He was so near death

He was willing to take

Any love he could get,

Even at the risk

Of some mocking policeman

Or some cute young wiseacre

Smashing his dentures,

Perhaps leading him on

To a dark place and there

Kicking him in his dead groin

Just for the fun of it.

@
@
@
Young tree, unburdened

By anything but your beautiful natural blossoms

And dew, the dark

Blood in my body drags me

Down with my brother.

@

@

May Morning

@
@
Deep into spring, winter is hanging on. Bitter and skillful in his

hopelessness, he stays alive in every shady place, starving along the

Mediterranean: angry to see the glittering sea-pale boulder alive

with lizards green as Judas leaves. Winter is hanging on. He still

believes. He tries to catch a lizard by the shoulder. One olive tree

below Grottaglie welcomes the winter into noontime shade, and

talks as softly as Pythagoras. Be still, be patient, I can hear him say,

cradling in his arms the wounded head, letting the sunlight touch

the savage face.

@

@

The Journey

@
@
Anghiari is medieval, a sleeve sloping down

A steep hill, suddenly sweeping out

To the edge of a cliff, and dwindling.

But far up the mountain, behind the town,

We too were swept out, out by the wind,

Alone with the Tuscan grass.

@
@
@
Wind had been blowing across the hills

For days, and everything now was graying gold

With dust, everything we saw, even

Some small children scampering along a road,

Twittering Italian to a small caged bird.

@
@
@
We sat beside them to rest in some brushwood,

And I leaned down to rinse the dust from my face.

@
@
@
I found the spider web there, whose hinges

Reeled heavily and crazily with the dust,

Whole mounds and cemeteries of it, sagging

And scattering shadows among shells and wings.

And then she stepped into the center of air

Slender and fastidious, the golden hair

Of daylight along her shoulders, she poised there,

While ruins crumbled on every side of her.

Free of the dust, as though a moment before

She had stepped inside the earth, to bathe herself.

@
@
@
I gazed, close to her, till at last she stepped

Away in her own good time.

@
@
@
Many men

Have searched all over Tuscany and never found

What I found there, the heart of the light

Itself shelled and leaved, balancing

On filaments themselves falling. The secret

Of this journey is to let the wind

Blow its dust all over your body,

To let it go on blowing, to step lightly, lightly

All the way through your ruins, and not to lose

Any sleep over the dead, who surely

Will bury their own, don't worry.

@

Having Lost My Sons,

I Confront the Wreckage of the Moon:

Christmas, 1960

@
@
After dark

Near the South Dakota border,

The moon is out hunting, everywhere,

Delivering fire,

And walking down hallways

Of a diamond.

@
Behind a tree,

It ights on the ruins

Of a white city:

Frost, frost.

@
Where are they gone

Who lived there?

@
Bundled away under wings

And dark faces.

@
I am sick

Of it, and I go on

Living, alone, alone,

Past the charred silos, past the hidden graves

Of Chippewas and Norwegians.

@
This cold winter

Moon spills the inhuman fire

Of jewels

Into my hands.

@
Dead riches, dead hands, the moon

Darkens,

And I am lost in the beautiful white ruins

Of America.

@
@

@
@
[Back To] TOP
@ @ Wright American Poetry IACD English Dept.
@